Although my colleagues warned me ahead of time, I became a little disappointed at the low turnout for parent-teacher conferences at the end of this week. Eight parents (about two-thirds with their student) came to visit over two days of conferences (scheduled at different times to accommodate any parent working any shift). I just can't help but think, like many things in public education, there must be a better way.
I'm not sure what that better way might look like, though. I know that some schools often hold conferences at large employers in the community, but how would that work for parents who don't work there? We have a place like that in the community I teach and they often partner with the schools, but it doesn't sound like a satisfying, simple answer to me. One of our wonderful APs called the parent of every kid sitting on a D or F average in any class, so you'd think that would jump start some conferences. And I will say that out of those eight parents who showed up, five had kids who were in danger of failing. I also made sure to talk up the conferences in every note I've mailed home in the last month and called the parents of kids who seem to struggle the most.
The student-teacher across the hall said that when her daughter was in elementary school, she went to conferences all the time, but kind of tapered off as she got into high school. And she couldn't decide if she had done the right thing or not. What's the appropriate level of parental involvement? Does not coming to conference night mean you don't care? Should we have our conferences somewhere else in the community people feel more comfortable attending? For our community, the school really is a community center of sorts, so I'm not sure that's the solution.
Dear readers, if I have any, I am interested to hear what you think. How do we re-imagine the parent-teacher conference to make it worthwhile for student success?